Call on Comelec for transparency, integrity, responsibility

EVERYONE plays a role in the integrity of the National and Local Elections (NLE) on May 9, 2022. “Vote SAFE (Secure, Accurate, Free and Fair Elections) Pilipinas,” is the battle cry of the Electoral Commission (Comelec ) . From the outset, Comelec reminded the public to vote SAFE and candidates to read or sign the Integrity Pledge when filing the candidate certificate. The Integrity Pledge reminded them to be vigilant in spreading misinformation, to be transparent in their campaign financing, to abide by health protocols, and to maintain safe, accurate, free, and fair elections. Even social media platforms are forging meaningful partnerships to help people access the right information so they can vote wisely in the upcoming election. As a social media professional, I signed the Election 2022 Pledge for Journalists and Media as early as July 2021. Some 200 journalists and 25 news outlets across the country have signed a pledge to election coverage factual and committed to monitoring the conduct of the election. electoral campaign, political parties and candidates, and the institutions mandated to ensure the integrity of the electoral process.

Indeed, Comelec and various stakeholders are working hard to ensure that the NLE will be conducted, free and fair. But Comelec is expected to respond to calls for transparency with voters about the integrity and security of Automated Election Systems (AES) provided on their behalf by Smartmatic for the May 2022 national elections. Halalang Marangal 2022 (HM2022), a coalition of 20 faith-based organizations in the Philippines, highlighted the call for transparency, integrity and accountability in elections. “We understand that Comelec could already have its hands full with the 2022 elections less than two months away. However, key issues have come to light in recent weeks on the Smartmatic automated election system, and the vote must proactively resolve them,” said Kent Sitaca, spokesperson for Halalang Marangal 2022. An alleged data theft occurred within Smartmatic based on a Senate committee hearing last week. Other problems may not yet have been discovered by Comelec.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, organizer of HM2022, asked Comelec for a response and action on:

1. Comelec printed 67% of the ballots without the presence of accredited citizen groups or technology-savvy third-party observers;

2. Configuration of Secure Data (SD) cards that will be used by the vote counting machines (VCM) also without the presence of third party observers;

3. Extending the use of the Philippines National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI) beyond the National Capital Region, Cebu and Davao;

4. Third-party audit on the aggregated telecommunications infrastructure that will be used by VCMs to transmit election results;

5. Third-party audit of the data centers hosting the Comelec central, backup and transparency servers;

6. Similar to code review, end-to-end third-party audit and Smartmatic automated election system review.

Sitaca stressed that “Comelec will continue to be plagued by these issues if not resolved.” “Halalang Marangal, together with its partners, will assist the polling body if needed.” Even Danny Arao, host of election watchdog Kontra Daya, in a CNN report called on the Senate to be “more transparent” and give all the details disclosed during the executive session. “The extent of the breach in Smartmatic servers/machines should be clear, in terms understandable to ordinary, unsophisticated people,” he added. Comelec Commissioner George Garcia told reporters on Wednesday that the en banc was “taking action” on the alleged security breaches. They cannot reveal the details so as not to harm the ongoing investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). We simply cannot take their word for it. Continued vigilance is required.

The National Movement of Citizens for Free Elections (Namfrel) believes that active vigilance, critical engagement and assistance to Comelec as it prepares for the elections, and citizen observation of the process are assurances that would help dispel fears of cheating during the vote count. and the manipulation of the results in the next elections. We all have the same goal: transparent, orderly and honest elections in May 2022 through a secure automated electoral system.

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